Uttar Pradesh has become the "epicentre of the politics of hate, division and bigotry" and the institutions of governance are "steeped in communal poison," alleged 104 retired civil servants in a letter to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
The signatories of the letter, including former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, ex-national security adviser Shivshankar Menon, former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, also demanded immediate withdrawal of the anti-conversion ordinance.
They alleged that the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance was being used to "victimise especially those Indian men who are Muslim and women who dare to exercise their freedom of choice".
Promulgated on November 27, the ordinance specifies the procedure for undergoing religious conversion and prohibits unlawful religious conversion. The BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government too has come up with a similar ordinance.
"It has become painfully evident that, in recent years, UP state, once known as the cradle of the Ganga-Jamuna civilisation, has become the epicentre of the politics of hate, division and bigotry and that the institutions of governance are now steeped in communal poison," the retired civil servants wrote in the letter dated December 29.
They also referred to a case of an interfaith marriage involving a Muslim man and a Hindu woman in Moradabad.
"In the Moradabad incident, 22-year-old Rashid and his 25-year-old brother, Saleem, were arrested, to be released only two weeks later when Rashid's wife, Pinki, gave testimony that she had married him willingly, without any compulsion," the letter, also signed by ex-police commissioner of Pune Meeran Borwankar, stated.
It added that the couple had married in July 2020, well before the promulgation of any ordinance on the issue of interfaith marriage, and were on their way to have their marriage registered on December 5 when they were accosted by alleged Bajrang Dal men, who accused Rashid of "love jihad", and took them to the police.
"The vigilantes who had accosted them brought Pinki's family to the police station. What is inexcusable is that the police remained mute as the vigilantes harassed and interrogated the innocent couple. Pinki suffered a miscarriage, possibly as a result of the harassment. Rashid is reported to have said.
"Does this not amount to effective murder of an unborn child and is the police force of your state, by their inaction, not complicit in this?" the letter stated.
This is only one of a series of "heinous atrocities committed by your administration" against young Indians across Uttar Pradesh, it said.
What is worse is that law enforcement machinery, with the active backing of the state government, is playing a role reminiscent of the "secret police in authoritarian regimes", they alleged.
"You can pose no greater threat to the nation than by turning its own citizens against one another, a conflict that can only serve the country's enemies. As Chanakya taught us, a crafty politician must sow dissension amongst rivals. Here you are sowing dissensions among our own people," the letter added.